No-bake Cookies

I'm afraid I'm going to lose this recipe. For this reason, I decided I would take some pictures and write it down here.
Directions:

In a large pot on the stove top, combine the sugar, butter, milk, vanilla, and cocoa. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low.

Add peanut butter, stir until melted. 

Add oats.  Stir until mixed.  Remove from heat and drop onto wax or parchment paper.  Size of cookies will be determined by how big a spoonful is dropped.

Allow to cool and harden.



The ingredients

Son stirring and stirring and stirring. 


A fast boil.  Don't let it burn, though!

The peanut butter has been melted.  Time for oats.

The dough.

Cookies!

Cohesive enough to not crumble!




2016 Reading Challenge Overview

In January I posted about my 2016 Reading Goals.

This is a check-in to see how I did.  If you didn't click on the link above, here's a brief summary of the goals:  

1) I wanted to read my own damn books in an effort to reduce the TBR shelf.

2)  Read some of the Kindle Freebies I've downloaded.

3)


So, there's the recap.  Here's the progress made....

Item #1:  I have read quite a few books that I owned prior to 2016.  Looking through my Goodreads challenge widget, these titles meet the requirement. 


Item #2: There were only a few books that fit into this category.  Not nearly as many as there should have been, though, as I am a compulsive downloading fool in the Kindle bookstore.  


Item #3:



As you can see I didn't finish a book my mom loves, which would be the Bible.  I tried.  I made decent progress into the Old Testament before I got distracted by, well, everything else.  Then I forgot I was challenging myself to read the entire thing and never went back.

I also did not read a book that has been translated into English.

The last item on the challenge that I did not manage to achieve was a book I should have read in high school.  I have several to choose from that I already own, I just didn't get around to reading any of them.

Here's what I did manage to accomplish, though.  I finally read The Paper Magician.  Using the Overdrive Library App, I borrowed a couple of newly published books: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.  I read Shakespeare's The Tempest, which most definitely fits into a category I don't normally read.  The book from my childhood is really pushing things, but I figured The Wizard of Oz movie was a huge part of my formative years so reading the book it was based on would count toward this goal.  I fell prey to peer pressure and read The Girl on the Train, which I enjoyed a lot more than I thought I would.  I also read The Cursed Child, which everyone knew would be a best seller before it even hit the shelves.  I also read the MadAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood, who is without a doubt one of my favorite authors.  Then there was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which had been recommended by my dear friend Sandy Alberto as a must read.  And, finally, I read Nefertiti's Heart because the cover art is so pretty.

Nefertiti's Heart (Artifact Hunters, #1)


If you'd like to take a peek at ALL the books I read this last year, click on the widget below.

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Krista has read 69 books toward her goal of 75 books.
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Summer Fun

Ken and I have been camping quite a bit this summer.  While this isn't unusual for us, what is strange is that most of our camping has been as a couple instead of as a family.  The boys rarely want to spend a weekend away from home.  Home is where the PS4 streams Call of Duty and where the friends and girlfriends are easily accessible.  Home is parent-free.

I remember reaching that age and enjoying those brief flashes of independence that did not come with a home owner's responsibilities.  I often opted to stay home, too, when my parents wanted to go away for a weekend or even a week, so I don't blame the boys for wanting to stay behind now.  I do miss them, though, and am saddened by the knowledge that their weekends away from us are precursors to a more permanent form of independence.  It's the first, yearning step toward autonomy. 

Not that I expect either of them to move out and get their own place any time soon.  Gage is only going to be a sophomore in high school and KC, while in college, doesn't have the means to support himself.  Job hunting has not been as productive as anyone expected.  He's put out a dozen applications and has had only three interviews.  And no one has offered him a job yet.  I'm not sure if he's doing something wrong or if the fit just hasn't been right...it's very discouraging, though. 

Margaritas, anyone?  I think a nice frozen concoction of delicious alcohol would make me feel better about the whole my-kid-is-jobless thing....

I just hope he's out job hunting while Ken and I are off enjoying some well deserved R&R.







Review: Black Light by Martha J. Allard

Black LightBlack Light by Martha J. Allard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hmm..what to say? The writing was beautifully done, the characters compelling, and the plot interesting. As I read, I found myself reliving a bit of my teenage years where parachute pants and big hair bands helped shape my fashion and music preferences. Although I enjoy a great deal of today's music, I must admit sometimes I just need my Def Leppard, Poison, or Motley Crue fix. (Thankfully, I've not had the urge to don parachute pants outside of playing dress up for the local 80s Festival.)

Black Light did an admirable job of imagining the lifestyles of an upstart band rocketing to fame. There were drugs and alcohol, outrageous outfits and larger-than-life behavior. There was also a great deal of tragedy. The moments of joy were fleeting and hard-won, and often overshadowed by the emotional battlefields the band members and their lovers traversed.

One little warning for the lover of in-your-face paranormals, though. The magic here is subtle. There are no blood-sucking vampires, howling werewolves, or poltergeists threatening the well-being of our cast and crew. Instead, as you read, I recommend considering either the lore surrounding succubi or emotional vampirism; it might help explain the paranormal tag.





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He Did It!

Over the last couple of weeks, we've been busy working around the house.  Well, I should clarify, Ken and the boys have been busy stripping and re-staining the front porch and back deck, tearing up flower beds and reloading them with more workable soil, and, finally, planting or transplanting flowers and a tree.



Meanwhile, in the house, I've been working on a slideshow and scrapbooks.  I know there's no way I will get the scrapbook done in time, but I hope I can at least come close.  I have this weekend and all of next week to work on these two rather time-consuming projects.  

Why the rush?  Well, KC's graduation party (a.k.a. open house) is quickly approaching.  Yes, that's right.  We're throwing the boy a party because he graduated high school!  


It wasn't always an easy road to travel.  KC had his fair share of struggles, some legitimate and some manufactured by his own inattention to detail.  I can't tell you the number of times he would complete his homework only to have it sit moldering in his locker or, worse yet, sitting unnamed in the teacher's "in-box".  Of course, there were a few classes that truly challenged him and made him work for every point.

Frankly, I hold him responsible for all my gray hair.  So much stress involved in getting this child through school!

But he did it.  He got the grades he needed and he graduated.

I am so very proud of him. 

  


Book Review: Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders

My Rating:  5 Stars
Goodread's Average Rating:  3.78 Stars

Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders 

FYI
Here's how I use the five star rating feature on Goodreads:


1 star = I seriously disliked this book.  I may not have even finished it.

2 stars = Eh. This book left me feeling rather ambivalent and I'm not even sure why I read it.

3 stars = While I may not have liked everything about this book, I still found a good deal of pleasure in reading it.  I might even recommend it to a friend or family member if I think they'd enjoy it.

4 stars = Sure, there may be a few things that I found problematic, but there's so much I loved about this book that it just didn't matter!  It's characters were interesting, the plot was sound, and/or it offered me a welcome escape from reality.  I am already thinking about who else should read this book and how I can convince them of it.  It's also being added to the keeper shelf.

5 stars = I love this book.  It's heading directly to the keeper shelf and likely will not be loaned out because I am a stingy book hoarder. It will also become well-worn from numerous re-reads.

Basically, the stars are reflective of my emotional response to a text. 

Why did Thomas Jeffer's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders get five stars?

This wasn't a fun and easy read.  It offered little in terms of entertainment, although I must admit my interested was piqued during the bits surrounding the Barbary pirates.  That could be a Pavlovian response, though, created by years of romanticizing pirates. Of course, I know the pirates showcased in historical romance novels and on the big screen shared little in common with those that plagued merchant ships during Jefferson's lifetime and Spellberg's work helped me to put aside my romantic notions and focus on some less-than-glamorous facts. Furthermore, she challenged me to press beyond what I assumed I knew about Thomas Jefferson and his contemporaries.  She asked me to consider America's founding years in the milieu of world religions and politics that extended beyond our break with Britain.

As someone who appreciates history and what it can teach mankind, I already knew a great deal about the religious persecution our forefathers and -mothers were escaping as they set out to colonize America.  I knew our country was shaped just as much by the desire of its citizenry to follow their own religious leanings as it was to avoid paying an unfair tax and being beholden to a distant king. What I hadn't really stopped to consider until I read Spellberg's work was how the world's religious landscape beyond Christianity influenced some of our most celebrated founders.  I certainly never considered Islam's role.

Spellberg's work has re-framed my understanding of the debate surrounding our country's most influential political documents, namely the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  I better understand the two opposing forces, the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, that battled with words and sentiments to create a nation they could envision succeeding in the distant future.  I understand now, in a way that I did not previously fully grasp, how a segment of our founding citizenry feared and reviled Catholics more than they did Jews, Pagans, and Muslims.  (Think about that for minute!  The mind boggles!)  Likewise, I understand the opposition to any type of religious oppression made men like Jefferson put aside their personal prejudices to uphold the notion of complete and total religious autonomy free of any sort of government influence.

I learned.  A lot.  That, in combination with an relatively pleasing writing style, earned this book a five star rating.

But how do I know what I learned isn't more left-leaning propaganda?  

While I have no way of knowing this for sure, I think it's a safe bet that Spellberg put a lot of time and effort into exploring this critical piece of America's founding history.  I say it's a safe bet because Spellberg is quick to provide her source material, of which there is a great deal.  There is a rather extensive index and supplementary note section to be found at the end of the work.  By providing information on how and where this gathered evidence can be found, she invites the reader to explore the evidence themselves and draw their own conclusions.

I must admit I didn't follow the evidence, but some what I read in Spellberg's work I had read elsewhere and knew the National Archives housed some of the very letters and treaties that were discussed.  I also did a quick search for any negative academic reviews. While Goodreads provides me with the opinion of other readers, some of who are very intelligent and amazingly articulate, having been a part of academia for so long I knew the most damning contradictory opinions would be found among her peers.  Other historians, especially those interested in religious studies or early American history, seemed the most logical voices to be raised in protest if she had misrepresented Jefferson or his contemporaries.  I found nothing of note, certainly nothing that undermined her premise or conclusion.

So, yes, I believe her when she suggests that Jefferson did not initiate military involvement with the Barbary states because the pirates were Muslim.  The evidence presented seems to support her contention that Jefferson engaged the pirates because they were interfering with America's economy. If the merchants fell prey to the pirates, trade was interrupted.  If ransoms were paid for captured sailors or if America agreed to pay for protection from the rulers of the African countries involved, money was still being hemorrhaged by a fledgling country that could little afford the financial hit. Military action seemed the most logical way to protect America's economic interest.

Further, I also believe that Jefferson was a critical voice in the fight for freedom of religion and that he meant to be wholly inclusive of all religions.

I've highlighted so many passages in this book, I fear I will never be able to find the exact quote I am looking for when and if I ever feel the need to do so.






What Happens in Vegas...Ends Up in My Camera Roll

The last time Ken and I went with another group of people to Vegas it was back in 2005.  We arrived that year on Ken's birthday, which means he did considerable liver damage that day as everyone kept buying him drinks.  It all started with a champagne tower as soon as the plane touched down.






That was a great trip.  We had so much fun and made memories that will last a lifetime.  We saw a pair of amazing Prince impersonators.  We found out taking the cheapest of the public transportation options could result in being stranded on a bus that had the unfortunate luck to be the victim of beer bottle projectiles; luckily, we had our very own medical professional who professed that someone in our group was having a medical emergency and needed to be let off the bus immediately.  We learned that Terrible's (or was it Horrible's) was not as close as the map made it appear - we should have worn hiking boots for that little excursion!  

Yes, it was fun.  There are so many memories from that trip, memories I treasure not only for their hilarity, but because someone very special had not yet left this earthly plane for a more spiritual existence. 

Having come to terms, as much as anyone really can, with the fact that life is too short and oh, so very fragile, I'm so grateful to have a husband who is eager to create new memories with the friends and family we love so much.  Although, I have to say, I'm just as grateful for the memories we create with just each other.

Most recently, we just spent a week in Las Vegas with a bunch of Ken's high school friends.  I'm not 100% positive that I was the only non-Mayville person in attendance, but if I wasn't, I was certainly in the minority.

Let's see...

My hubby, Laura, Ken B., and Gina were not only from the same school, they were in the same grade.  Jeff, Laura's husband, was a few years older, as was Laura's sister, Chris.  Chris's husband, Mark, is really the only one I'm not certain was a Mayville original.  Like me, he may have married into the community.  (Now I'm going to have to ask...not knowing will bother me to no end!)


I have to say that for being an "outsider", I certainly never felt like one.  This is probably due to the fact that while they may have been Ken's friends first, I've known these people for a long time and consider them just as much my friends as they are his.  

The time we spent together went by much too fast.  This was probably due to jet lag and shenanigans. I took a bunch of pictures but some of them I just can't bring myself to share, not even here on the blog that gets hardly any traffic.  











Those seemed safe enough to share.  I spared you the bared asses, banana hammocks, and barely-there nip covers.  You're welcome.

Now I just wish I could go back in time and tell my inebriated self to avoid the more disturbing brands of crazy populating Freemont Street.  I should have stuck to my geeky kind of fun instead.



Of course, I can't close this post without mentioning the motivating force behind this trip.  In the very early planning stages this wasn't just an excuse to get together and drink too much while losing heavily at the slot machines and tables.  Laura proposed the trip as part of her and Jeff's 25th wedding anniversary celebration.  Early on there was talk about renewing vows.  In the end, Jeff bought her a new ring and did a little proposal on the waters inside the Venetian.



How sweet was that! 






A Brief Book Review

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam, #1)Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent start

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. I think Atwood is a genius storyteller who is able to take modern concerns and see them through to their darkest ends. The world of Snowman (Jimmy), Oryx, and Crake is frightening and fascinating, a place of marvels and unimaginable horrors.

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Too Many Reading Commitments?

Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love books.  I am never without one.  At home, I have shelves of to-be-read titles.  On my Kindle I have an ever-growing multitude - so many freebies! With the Kindle Cloud Reader, I can access my e-books from my phone or iPad, which are always within arms reach.

To say I read a lot is not an exaggeration.  If I had to provide a very unscientific average of the number of books I read in a year, I'd say it's somewhere around 50.  That's something like four books a month.  And that's in a slow year.  There have been years when I've read closer to 75 books.  

Imagine how many books would be read if I'd give up television!

Last night, for example, I might have caught up to my co-readers of the MaddAddam trilogy if I hadn't decided to watch the X-Files and then Castle with the family.  My decision to veg on the couch for those two hours seriously cut into my reading, which left me conflicted because Oryx and Crake, the first book in the trilogy, is simply fabulous.  I really wanted to keep reading! 

If this was the only book I had committed to read this month, I would still be feeling pretty confident about catching up in a timely manner.  Unfortunately, I think I may be pushing even my reading limits this dreary February. 

I'm committed to reading four books this month, three of which are book club choices. 

The first, as I've mentioned, is Oryx and Crake.

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam, #1)

I'm reading this book with my friends and co-workers, Katie and Emily.  This isn't really a book club in the official sense of the word, it's more of a co-reading experience.  When I saw Katie add this to her Goodreads "currently reading" shelf, I got overly excited and decided I wanted to read it with her. When I told her I already owned the book but had yet to read it, she mentioned that Emily was also picking it up.  Just like that, we had a book in common that we could discuss and analyze.

I'm delighted that it's as wonderful as I had hoped it would be.  At least, it is so far.  Fully informed opinion yet to come as there's still a lot of reading to do!

The second book I've committed myself to reading this month is a Penguin First to Read title.  As a participant in this program, I get early access to read books that are scheduled to be released in the near future.  I believe this one will hit bookshelves on April 5, 2016.   

Arena

The next book I am supposed to finish before March 1st is for my hometown book club.  Last month I got to pick the Paper Magician.  This month, Amanda, our founder's twin sister, selected this little gem.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

I was so excited to see this book selected for our February read.  I am hoping to go pick it up today at the university library; I'm fairly confident I've seen it on the shelves.  Malala's memoir is something I've considered reading a few times.

And that brings me to the last book I'm supposed to read this month. I promised myself that this year I would really make an effort to read more Kindle freebies.  After all, if I'm going to overwhelm my Kindle Cloud Reader with these titles, I should read at least some of the books that have caught my eye over the years.  That I'm doing so with two of my favorite people is just an added bonus.  Or maybe the book is the bonus because the excuse to meet up and talk books with my baby sister, Chrissy, and her mom (my former step-mom) is really the thing that gets me excited to read these freebies.

Last month we read Nefertiti's Heart.  This month we're supposed to read this eye-catching werewolf story.  Given the cover, I'm assuming it's a paranormal romance.

By the Light of the Moon (Rise of the Arkansas Werewolves, #1)

So there are the four books I'm supposed to read before month's end.  The problem is that I know Oryx and Crake is the first in a trilogy that I am going to want to immediately finish.  This could make fitting in the other three books very difficult.

Wish me luck!

My Latest Addiction

I've always enjoyed playing video games.  I remember fighting with my brothers for my fair share of playing time with our rather limited Atari collection.  I don't even remember the games.  PacMan, maybe.  Space Invaders.  Centipede.  Pong.

I don't quite remember the year we got the Atari system, but I'm thinking I had to have been anywhere between ten and thirteen.  In my memories, my brothers are young.   They're sitting in the dining room, chairs in front of the small tv my dad had let us hook the thing up to.  The big TV in the living room was reserved for his viewing pleasure.  

At least, these are what my rather diminished memories recall.  My brother, BJ, has an elephant's memory and can likely paint a more complete picture, but I'm not about to call him and ask.  We'll just go with I was young and we had a small collection of games we all like to play.

Not my photo.  Click here to go to original location on the web.
As we grew and technology advanced we were lucky enough to get a Nintendo.  Mostly, when I think of this console, I think of Duck Hunt. Oh, the hours we spent shooting that gun at the screen!

Not my photo.  Click here to go to the original location on the web. 
Eventually my parents replaced that original Nintendo with a Super Nintendo.  I think while I was away at college and not really paying much attention to games that didn't involve cards and/or alcohol, there may have been another upgrade to a Nintendo Cube.  

When Ken and I got married, we didn't worry about gaming consoles.  We had more important things to focus on, you know, like a mortgage and groceries.  If I played any electronic games during those years, it was limited to Mine Sweeper on the computer.  It wasn't until our boys came along that we decided to finally go next generation.  We started with a Wii, but soon enough had a Playstation and then a PS2 and now we've got a PS3.  I really want to upgrade to the latest and greatest, but the time isn't quite right for our household to deal with that distraction. 

Kids + school + new gaming console = disaster!  

I'm not too disappointed by this decision to keep the old and forego the new.  I still enjoy playing my PS3 games.  I have quite a few I haven't yet beat.  Final Fantasy XIII-2, for example, is frustrating the hell out of me.  I know I'm at the final boss battle, but do you think I can figure out the maze my character is stuck in?  No.  No, I cannot!  

I must say, though, that my latest addition has nothing to do with our fancy and expensive console machines or their equally expensive games.  Nope.  That's not the case at all.  My latest obsession is on my phone and on my iPad.  It's an App Store freebie with in-game purchases available.  Really expensive in-game purchases that might make life easier, but likely won't because Com2us really does mean to make you work for a viable team. 

The game in question is Summoners War.  I started playing it a few months back and I must admit that I don't think I've missed a single day of game play.  I think this is because it does remind me a bit of the RPG games I tend to prefer.  You summon characters with different elemental abilities.  Each character has a main type: attack, defense, or support.  Their "moves" or skills can be leveled up. Even better, runes can buff your characters' basic stats giving them more health, attack power, defense, accuracy, resistance, speed, etc.  This is all very important because while there are scenerios you work through, the real challenge comes in guild and arena battles.  Your opponents in these two settings aren't just the basic form of the monster you're facing, as they would be in scenerio, instead these are runed and skill-up monsters other players around the world are building.  

So, there's a lot that appeals to me.  I like trying to figure out how to make my monster better.  I swap runes in order to experiment with skill variations.  Okay, and the graphics are pretty cool, too.  


In Which I Think I Might Join the Booktube Community



I think I do enough talking in the video that there's really no need for me to expound upon this decision any further.

Reading Goals for 2016

Yes, it's another post about books!

The only people who won't find this dreadfully boring are the other book lovers out there.  Although, let's be honest, they might be bored by this, too, because I'm going to be talking about my reading goals and not theirs.  

Oh well and onward...

I've got a couple of different reading goals this year that will all feed into meeting my overall Goodreads goal, which is to read 75 books in 2016.  I'm rather impressed with the fact that it's not even a full week into 2016 and I already have two books counted toward this goal (arguably four as one of the texts was a three-in-one deal that contained an entire trilogy, but whatever). 

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Krista has read 2 books toward her goal of 75 books.
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So there's the overall goal.  Seventy-five books.

The other reading goals that I've set for myself this year will feed into collective pool.  The first is the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge that encourages readers to tackle the demon TBR shelf.  There doesn't seem to be any category restrictions or rules that must be followed.  The goal is simply to reduce the number of books that are sitting on your shelves, whether those shelves be tactile or virtual.

It should be noted my TBR record keeping is rather suspect.  I don't add the Kindle freebies that I buy to that Goodreads shelf.  However, if I pay for a Kindle book, I do try to add those. 

The next challenge is one that I shared with my hometown book club members.


I believe our first book will help me check off that very first box.  I picked up The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg in 2014 and was able to suggest it to our group this month as they drew my name out of the hat first.

The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #1)

As I look at the rest of that challenge, I think it should be rather easy to accomplish.  I suspect the hardest one will be the one my mom recommends because I have the sneaking suspicion it will be the Bible; she knows I've tried and failed multiple times, including our most recent shared reading experience.

The final challenge that I've set for myself is to start actually taking advantage of all those Kindle freebies.  Each month my sister, my ex-step-mom (ah, families), and I will be rotating who gets to pick a book from the digital freebie pile.  We started the year off with my selection of A. W. Exley's Nefertiti's Heart.

Nefertiti's Heart (Artifact Hunters, #1)

As an added bonus, both of those books were already on my virtual TBR shelf, so the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks goal is also already working out well for me.

~~~~~

So...what are your reading goals this year and how are you hoping to accomplish them?